Confronting History in the Heartland
In Marion, in May 2011—while sipping coffee at the Spencer House, if memory serves—I came across a blog entry written by the Harvard scholar and school reformer Richard Elmore, which he had posted to the website EdWeek.org. In his post, Elmore sketches two classes that he says are fairly typical of those encountered in his research. One class is “regular” English; the other, “honors.” Much like Sizer before him, Elmore describes the classrooms as uninspiring and intellectually shallow—scenes, alternatingly, of boredom and a kind of contented quiescence.1 In the “regular” class, a teacher attempts to stimulate discussion, but most students hold side conversations or “[sit] silently, staring into space, waiting for the bell to ring.” In “honors” English, students organize their papers, notes, and quizzes into three-ring binders. Elmore comments:
It is clear that the students are having a good time doing this; it is also clear that they have written a total of about ten pages of prose between January and May; and it is clear that the main reason they are having a good time is that they are forestalling whatever the “work” is for that day. After forty-five minutes of excruciatingly detailed, rule-oriented discussion of what goes where in the portfolio, the teacher suggests that the students spend the next forty minutes silently reading a section of the text. (2011)
← 139 | 140 →According to Elmore, the most demanding classes, like Advanced Placement, move faster, but are fundamentally similar...
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